Dad, I got your letter!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I don't think a letter has ever had better timing than when I got that one on Friday... it was so great!
We almost died from exhaustion this week, but we are so happy!! When Elder Packer came to visit at the beginning of the year, he issued the challenge and standard to teach 20 lessons every week. More than twice the average I think. Ever since then, we've been working so hard to do it. Each week we don't, and we'll be so tired from working, but we'll remind ourselves to judge our efforts, not the results of those efforts when we report in Sunday night. When we got to baton Rouge, there was one non committal investigator, and about 5 lessons a week. We have been working and working and this last week we were determined!! And a miracle happened- WE DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We taught 20 lessons! Oh my goodness!!! We were blessed so much. We have about 5 new investigators, and they are so amazing, they're for real. We taught so many lessons through Thursday, and then all of a sudden, almost every single appointment fell through Friday and then every appointment on Saturday (usually the days we teach the most.) I don't really know how to explain how tired we were physically. It's more than just thinking you'll fall asleep in a lesson (which seemed unimaginable to me when I got here) it's more like you just completed an ironman, and every emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual energy is spent. So Friday and Saturday were difficult. We should have overshot our goals with all the lessons we had set those two days, but instead we were still sitting at 15. We prayed so much that we would find all the people we were supposed to teach. We never went home after all our church meetings, and right before curfew last night, we hit it right on: 20. Needless to say we were very happy when we left that appointment! When you work hard and are 100% determined, the adversary does not like it. He fought against us, especially Friday and Saturday, but when you keep the commandments, and your covenants, there's nothing he can do to overpower you.
Also, we had lots of opportunities for service. We visited the Alzheimer's unit at a care center, which was really fun. They love music. :) And I'm teaching piano to a boy in the branch. I discovered he has pretty severe ADHD so it's a challenge, but he's great. His name is Jose, but every calls him Chivo. And our new investigator, Vanessa, has 2 children who really needs help with English. They are 7 and 8 years old. We contacted Vanessa and her friend Ruth and Ruth's house about 3 weeks ago. Gave each a book of Mormon. When we were able to follow up with them, we found out that Vanessa had read, and she wanted to learn more, and she was desperate for help with her children, who up until about 2 months ago, have attended school in Mexico. So we went to Vanessa's and her entire apartment complex has only Hispanics living there. Perfect!! It's a long story, but word spreads fast among Latina women and after teaching Isaac and Cesia once, we have a little English school for the ninos. The last time we taught we had about 9 kids, ages 4-13. Apparently, the schools here don't offer any help or aids or anything for people who have English as a second language. Pretty crazy, so a lot of these poor kids are so frustrated. Poor Cesia started crying in our first lesson because she says she feels dumb and she's gonna fail but she's trying so hard. I looked at her most recent test and saw that she really is trying. Heck, I would have messed up "scent" and "cent" or "muscle" and "mussel" when I was 7, and my parents always spoke English to me! So it's slightly overwhelming, because we don't know how to teach kids, but we're doing our best and we love them! We use my little whiteboard, and sidewalk chalk and objects. I just love those kids already. We'll take a pic this week so you can see it next week. And Vanessa!! We taught her three times this week! In one day she read 4 chapters of the Book of Mormon, which we were pretty stoked about. The next night we taught her with our Branch President and his wife, and Vanessa got this notebook out of questions she'd written. Sweet. She said she had a question about chapter 17. What chapter?!" I said. It thought I'd heard her wrong. So she's just eating it up. Although one thing I've noticed - it's amazing how many people think that Nephi is our version of Noah. I mean, they both built a boat. haha, I think every investigator I've had in BR has asked that.
Another day, I found a paper that had some old scribbled notes about contacts elders had had. I read them and almost threw it away when I read one about two women they'd taught once, and felt like we needed to find that address and go there. We did, but a different lady lived there, Judy. When we gave her a Book of Mormon and told her what it was, she opened to the introduction, and read it out loud right there. We were just sitting outside on her steps. We went back this week and after talking to us for a while, she said that the other night she was praying. And she started to cry because her children and grandchildren are going through such hard things in Mexico, like hunger and extremes. Like really when I'm hungry because we skipped meal breaks, I don't even know the meaning of hunger. She said after praying she looked at all her scriptures and books (she's been religious her whole life) and felt like she should open the Book of Mormon. So she did and started flipping. And where did she stop? Alma 32. Wow. She read the whole thing and loved it. She said she knew God had sent us to her in the time she needed. Then our lesson fell through with her on Saturday. We think she just forgot, but we don't know. We'll see what happens.
That happens with a lot of people. They say we're angels sent, or our message is really nice, but when it comes down to it, only a very few will act. Or one of the 100’s of Baptist churches here gets to them. But we labor anyway, just to find the one who will act on their faith, and receive all the blessings that wait for them. And the others we labor for because I believe strongly in planted seeds. The church did a study a year or two ago that showed that on average, a person will have 7 contacts with the church before baptism. That means they could have heard some of the missionary lessons, or they were a street contact, or they have an LDS neighbor, or just work with one. So sometimes, we have contact with people, and we can feel that they aren't ready, we know we were the first contact. Or maybe the 3rd. But that's why we open our mouths with EVERYONE!! Because they might not even know it, but if they just had a positive experience with a Mormon, or hey even saw one of us rounding up carts at the Burlington Coat Factory, it'll help. :)
Speaking of shopping carts, did you know Southerner's call them "buggies?" It is SO funny! We heard it once and thought it was just a fluke. But it wasn't. They say it like it's totally normal! Well, it is to them. "Hey, Fran, did y'all need a buggie?" Haha, a what!?
Alrighty, we have a goal to leave the library soon! So I typed so fast and there's probably lots of mistakes. but I also just thought I'd tell you that I translated yesterday! I tried once in NO through the headsets, and it didn't go so well. But yesterday when we got to church, President Estrada told me there was an american lady speaking and they wanted a female translator. Oh? That means me. Yikes! But I did it! From the pulpit! And it was a solid 20 min talk! But our members are so nice! I was so nervous, but boy did I have a captive audience. Every eye was right on me, encouraging me, just wanting me to succeed! And there's this really sweet couple, Los Huerta. They're from Bolivia, and serve in the temple presidency. They actually made us meet them at the store last Monday so they could buy some cream for my sunburn, which is turning into a nice tan by the way. They're really salt of the earth people. Well, he's fluent in English, and she knows a lot. They always sit on the second row, and I think he mouthed every word along with me. I couldn't really read his lips, but if I got really stuck, he'd say the word out loud. Bless his heart! They're my Bolivian Grandparents! Between them and Edy and Aura, I'm starting to have grandparents from all over! haha
Well, I must be going. I hope you all have a fantastic week! I'm very excited about General Conference in two weeks. I'm pondering what question I want to have in my mind while I listen this time. I know that if we do, we will receive answers and guidance from our living prophet and apostles on the earth. What a blessing.